Radio Times from 1955

I remember that we had our first television set from early in 1952, when at that time we only had one channel BBC and even at the time that these Two Radio Times magazines were issued in March 1955 nothing had changed.

Then in September of 1955 ITV was introduced – so we had then two channels. Early sets had to be converted with an ‘add-on’ box that at the flick of a switch gave us the new channel.

ABOVE – Peter Scott was often on Television at that time from his home at Slimbridge

Looking back at the scheduling for Friday 1st April 1955, The Grove Family was on at 7-45 pm but it only ran for 15 minutes.

Transmission started at 3 pm and closed down at 4 pm then re-opened at 5 pm for one that I remember so well ‘The Cisco Kid’ followed by ‘The Range Rider’ and then we closed down again for an hour.

Then from 7 o clock we had the News, The Grove Family, a visit to Wells Cathedral with John Betjeman and after that Arthur Askey ‘Before Your Very Eyes’ – with very special guest Sabrina.

It does sound rather good – I would just love to sit down for an evening and watch that very programme

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The Heart of the Matter 1953

Yet another one with Maria Schell in it – hadn’t realised that until I came to look through the actors.

Also it is a film set in Sierra Leone. A dear friend and near neighbour of ours, who sadly passed away in 2012, had spent two years in the country during the War. He spoke very well of it, in that it was quite safe from German Bombers as they didn’t have the range, but the main dis-advantage was Malaria.

The weather is very hot and tropical so in many ways a paradise

Trevor Howard gives a capable performance as a British colonial policeman who is stationed in Sierra Leone caught up in a mid life crisis. He’s fallen out of love with wife Elizabeth Allan whom he sends away on money borrowed from a man who the authorities suspect of smuggling, an offence during wartime.

He also falls in love with Maria Schell, an Austrian refugee who with others had been on a life raft for 40 days at sea after Elizabeth Allan has been sent away. That and the fact that he now has the appearance of impropriety has his superiors questioning him after accusations were brought by another civilian Denholm Elliott.

Howard’s troubles are big, but he is his own harshest judge

Peter Finch played the priest, Father Rank in the film – he had just finished ‘The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men’ for Walt Disney, then Gilbert and Sullivan and also a stage play in the West End with Laurence Olivier and shortly after this he was heading to Ceylon for ‘Elephant Walk’ with Vivien Leigh. As we all know by now, Vivien Leigh became ill in Ceylon and had to be flown back to Britain – her place was taken by Elizabeth Taylor.

Peter Finch

So we can see that Peter Finch was then a very busy actor

Trevor Howard looking quite stern

ABOVE – the actors and crew gather together on the set of the film

Arriving in Sierra Leone

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New Film Studios in England

Just about 70 years on from when the legendary Denham Film Studios were closed and later demolished, we learn of a renaissance because NEW film studios are to be built at Broxbourne in Hertfordshire.

Sunset Studios the Hollywood studio facility that were behind such hits as “La La Land” and “When Harry Met Sally,” looks to be heading for Hertfordshire

Hudson Pacific Properties, who own Sunset Studios, have partnered with private equity firm Blackstone Group to create a film, TV and digital production facility in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.

It will be Hudson Pacific’s first international expansion. Together with Blackstone, they own 35 sound stages and on-site creative offices in the U.S.

The 91-acre site, which cost £120 million is less than an hour’s drive from Central London, and nearby Leavesden studios, where the “Harry Potter” and “Batman” franchises have been filmed.

Leavesden first came into use for ‘Goldeneye’ in 1995 – it was a former Rolls Royce Factory with its own runway at that time – in fact in that film the opening sequence set at the nerve gas establishment at Archangel in Northern Russia was mainly filmed on the runway.

I visited Leavesden around 1995 while the Bond film was in production and had a good long tour round it – it had huge amounts of space much as Denham had years before.

The sites will be about 15 miles apart.

Denham Film Studios

Denham Film Studios
The Denham Studio ‘Tank’ later changed to a Car Park

On Feb. 24th 1952 the last chapter in the story of Denham Film Studios was written when the final contents were sold by auction. It was in 1936 that Sir Alexander Korda opened the studios which were the largest in Britain, the first to be built here on Hollywood lines – and one of the largest if not THE largest in the world then

Denham was aimed at making British films of international importance and it drew to the studios world famous stars and directors.

Famous films made there included The Ghost Goes West ” and ”Rembrandt”. At one time the studio had 15 features on the floor. The last complete film made at the studio was Walt Disney’s ”The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Man” in 1951 – and released almost at the time of this closure.

Before that Walt Disney had produced his very first ‘live-action’ film there ‘Treasure Island’ with Robert Newton. The Deham Lake was used for the ‘landing on the island’ sequence

Since then it has been gradually dying, only being used for a few ”bits and pieces”, and for music recordings.

It should never have closed – and if it could have stayed around for another decade I am convinced that it would have been successful again.

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The Magic Box 1952

I hadn’t realised that the lovely actress Maria Schell was in this. She was later in that great film ‘So Little Time’ with Marius Goring – who actually was also in this film.

The film was also shown later in 1956 in the Kraft Television Theatre slot in America. NBC had purchased the film version for just one showing only and even then they trimmed the length of the film to 50 minutes.

Robert Donat give a typically moving performance as the British inventor who experimented with film making in his Bath studio.

This film was made for the Festival of Britain in 1951, and is notable not just as an interesting slice of nineteenth century history, but also for a parade of famous faces, all popping up in the film as though to pay homage to one of the founders of cinema.

In the cast are Laurence Olivier, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Ustinov, Stanley Holloway, Marius Goring, Sybil Thorndike, Sid James, Michael Redgrave, Joyce Grenfell, Michael Hordern and many more.

I remember Frederick Valk in ‘Dead of Night’

William Freise-Greene ( Robert Donat )

William Green had changed his name to include his first wife’s so that it sounded more impressive for the photographic portrait work he was so good at.

He was also an inventor and his search for a way to project moving pictures became an obsession that ultimately changed the life of all those he loved.

Robert Donat with Maria Schell

With his wife played by Maria Schell

The film belongs to Robert Donat as the obsessed, but strangely appealing William Friese- Greene who helped give the world a new and universal medium of entertainment.

Robert Donat did not make many films but they are all memorable to such an extent that you always think of him as being prolific in the cinema. It is fair to say that he never gave a bad performance on the screen and William Friese-Greene ranks among his best.

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The Killer Shrews 1959


Sometimes, as we all know, scientific experiments go wrong with disastrous consequences – this is the pretext for many horror / monster / creature films of this era but we loved them.

This one tells the story of a scientist who created the killer shrews

Good Special effects


To set the scene, arriving on a remote island Captain Thorn Sherman (James Best) and his first mate, Rook Griswold (Henry Dupree) are there to deliver supplies to scientist, Dr. Marlowe Cragis (Baruch Lumet).  

Cragis is on the island with his daughter, Ann (1957 Miss Universe Ingrid Goude), her fiance Jerry Farrell (Ken Curtis who also produced the film), and research assistant Dr. Radford Baines and servant, Mario (Alfred DeSoto).  

The group are on the island conducting experiments to prevent overpopulation – should that ever become a problem.  The Doctor’s theory revolves around the notion that if we had slower metabolisms and were half our size we’d live longer lives and the planet would survive on less.

Rook and the Captain approach the remote island
Rook and the Captain approach the remote island

On a normal day Captain Sherman would simply drop off the supplies and leave, but he and Rook become stuck there because of adverse weather conditions.

We soon see that Ann seems really nervous and Jerry Farrell is carrying a rifle and seems jumpy.  

We then learn the story of the Doctor’s experiments after Sherman accompanies the group to the house for a drink.

Rook stays behind with the boat.

Double Bill of Horror

It turns out that the serum that’s supposed to make mankind smaller and slower has been tested on small, rat-looking creatures and a few of them have mutated into GIANT KILLER SHREWS!

Dr. Radford Baines explains all about the shrews and the experimentation

In any case, Dr. Cragis’ shrews have mutated to pick-up all the bad characteristics of their species, which apparently includes developing both a horrendous over bite and a voracious appetite for flesh – human flesh at that.

These shrews also mate like rabbits and the few that escaped from the laboratory now number in the hundreds.  The main problem arises when it seems that the only food source left on the island  is the people!  

The Captain is now trapped inside the house with the others because the shrews will attack if they try to get back to the boat.  Meanwhile, little by little the shrews eat through the walls to get inside the house.

Landing on the Island – unaware of what terrors are ahead
A tense and frightening Scene

Now in constant danger the men take turns staying up through the night with guns in hand to kill any shrew who might get inside.  

The first one killed by the shrews is Rook Griswold when he attempts to reach the house during the night.  

Anyway Mario dies, and we soon learn, due to poison when he is bitten by the shrew on the shin because as the Doctor explains he’d tried to kill the beasts with poison, but they mutated to accept it.  

Dr. Baines also dies as a result of a shrew bite.  As the fast-acting poison works its way through his system he manages to type a list of all his symptoms before he keels over approximately 30 seconds later.  Now the group must not only fear being eaten alive, they have to avoid a mere scratch!

As daybreak approaches shrews come and shrews go, but the majority of the animals are out there and the tension builds.  

We do get some relief as Ann and the Captain have developed feelings for each other.  This in itself, leads anxiety for everyone because Jerry Farrell, Ann’s fiance doesn’t take to the flirting.  

A violent and Frightening end for Rook Griswold

Now that the house has been breached Captain Sherman, Dr. Cragis and Ann decide the only way to survive is to make it to the boat.  Farrell, now crazy with jealousy and fear decides to stay behind and fend for himself, which proves a bad decision, as he becomes fodder for the shrews.  

Meanwhile, the other three come up with an ingenious way to make it out of the house, across the island, into the ocean and onto the boat.  What they do is take empty barrels of oil, cut holes into them so as to see where they’re going, turn the barrels upside down and tie them together.  Each person then gets inside a barrel and walks that way towards the boat.  It’s very effective, if not without its perils as the terrifying shrews pursue them all the way.

Ann looks to where she's duck-walking...
Ann looks to where she’s walking…
The shrew is looking back at her

Luckily the oil barrel trick works and the three – miraculously – make it onto the boat – and live happily ever after.  The shrews are left to eat themselves on the remote island.

A colorised version of The Killer Shrews was released on DVD as a double feature with ‘The Giant Gil Monster’ which was made at the same time as The Killer Shrews and by the same producer and director.

ABOVE – The Colorised Trailer – Excellent

Both of these films got a National and International Release. The ‘Killer Shrews’ was made on a budget of 123,000 US Dollars and took over One Million Dollars at the Box Office – pretty good going.

I have seen much of the film and have to say it is well done and likeable. I certainly like the film.

They must escape ABOVE

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No Royal Road – David Farrar’s Autobiography

David Farrar wrote his Autobiography a little early maybe – in 1947 – and it does cover ‘Black Narcissus’ but not the later films – including his Hollywood ones and his trips over there with his family.

No Royal Road – the only picture I could find and not a very good one

This is not an easy book to get hold of – and in fairness, I haven’t read it but am given to understand that he was a man with a high opinion of himself.

I recall the story of a school trip by the Old Monrovians to Denham Film Studios where the film ‘Mr Perrin and Mr Traill’ was being made which also starred Marius Goring and Greta Gynt. Apparently all the actors particularly Edward Chapman were very helpful and friendly with the boys but David Farrar was not.

He appeared looking dis-interested, had a picture taken, and then just strode off and that’s the last the schoolboys saw of him.

He does come over as superior and supercilious and unfriendly.

When he retired from films, and after his wife died he went to live near his daughter in South Africa. He didn’t keep in contact with any of his colleagues in the film industry – and appeared to have few friends

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Radio Plays from Hollywood Stars

In the Forties and early Fifties Radio drama in the USA had a huge audience with up to 50 million listeners at times – enormous by today’s standards. Consequently many of the stars found it very rewarding to take on roles there

One of the most famous actors in films at the time, also made a great success of starring on Radio in drama and Serials / Series – was Ronald Colman.

Like many top film stars, Ronald Colman reprised several of his film roles for radio plays on Lux Radio Theatre andThe Screen Guild Theatre.

These included “The Prisoner of Zenda”, “None Shall Part Us”, “The Juggle of Notre Dame”, “Libel!”, “Rebecca”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “The Talk Of The Town”, “Lost Horizon”, “Random Harvest” and others.

One of Colman’s most dramatic pre-War radio appearances was on Mar 16, 1940 in an adaptation of “The Most Dangerous Game”.

During the War Ronald Colman lent his support to Radio Tributes to the King and Queen in 1939.

Once America joined the War, he served on the front lines of the “Battle of Hollywood”.

One of Ronald Colman and his wife Benita Hume’s best loved contributions to Old Time Radio was as a part of a running joke on theJack Benny Programme.

On the Dec 9, 1945, broadcast, Jack is invited to dinner at his supposed next door neighbours, the Colman’s (in real life, the Benny’s and the Colman’s lived a few blocks apart). The joke went on for years, and included Jack getting robbed after he “borrowed” Ronald Colman’s Oscar statuette. It was such a popular routine that Jack revived it for his television programme using James Stewart and his wife as the neighbours.

Ronald Colman, his wife Benita Hulme and Jack Benny

The Colman’s had so much fun doing comedy with Jack Benny that when  writer Don Quinn came up with a new project, they were all ears. Quinn had written his ‘Halls of Ivy’ to star Gale Gordon and Edna Best but when the Ronald Colman’s found out about the concept, they jumped at it. 

The Halls of Ivy’ ran for 109 episodes on the radio, including “The Goya Bequest” which Ronald Colman wrote himself.

The show was more than light sitcom fare, featuring all kinds of stories including an unwed pregnancy – daring for the day.

It then went on to Televsion where thirty eight episodes followed – ‘The Halls of Ivy’ featured on CBS TV, mostly using scripts adapted from the radio programmes.

A Radio play from 1935

Ronald Colman passed away in May, 1958, battling acute emphysema. At the time of his death, he was contracted to star in MGM’s Village of the Damned. The film was eventually made by a British Production company starring George Sanders.

Sanders also married the widowed Benita Hume.

In England a couple tune in ABOVE

An exciting Scene

Top Stars played their famous roles for Radio – ABOVE and BELOW

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Stunt Men in Films

They do their job so well and yet never achieve star billing even though, for some of these dangerous stunts, surely there should be recognition. This article in a very small way gives them the billing, I hope, that they deserve.

The last article focussed on ‘The Range Rider’ starring Jack Mahoney who himself had been a very courageous and much sought sfter stunt man in films, who, as we know, made the transition into TV and films with good success.

These Pictures above and below – are probably from ‘Ivanhoe’

The picture above seems to show quite a modern ladder – maybe that was out of camera shot on the screen

ABOVE – We see the filming of an action sequence very possibly ‘Stagecoach’ and the stunt man below is Yakima Canutt one of the most famous of his profession.

Maybe – better still a Stunt Woman from the 1940s BELOW

1950:  The Flame and the Arrow

In this Burt Lancaster did most of his own stunts along with his good friend Nick Cravat

Watched by Virginia Mayo, Burt Lancaster back flips from the tree branch

ABOVE – Two of my own pictures – from Westerns on the late forties or early fifties. Top Picture a daring jump from horseback on to a speeding horse drawn wagon


Bottom – A huge drop from the top of a rock onto a cantering horse and rider – that is some stunt – in fact they both are unbelievable – probably the same stunt man. Could it even be Jack Mahoney – I am not sure

An interesting add-on here – in 1948 Yakima Canutt directed a film ‘Sons of Adventure’ for Republic Pictures which was a fictionalised story about the work and adventures and dangers of the Stunt Man.

I must try to get hold of a DVD of this film – I think that it could be quite interesting and entertaining

More stills from ‘Sons of Adventure 1948 BELOW

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The Range Rider

A great TV series that was shown each week on BBC Television in England – with Jack Mahoney as The Range Rider and Dick Jones as his sidekick

Each episode ran for barely half an hour, in which time we had packed in a story, plenty of action, fights, chases usually on horseback, falls and escapes. The show was produced by Gene Autry’s Flying A Productions

ABOVE – Jack Mahoney and Dick Jones

Jack – or Jock – as he is often billed had been a stuntman of some repute standing in for the likes of Errol Flynn and Dick Jones had been a Rodeo Rider before getting into films. So they could – and did – give us action by the bucket loads.

Jack Mahoney as ‘The Range Rider’

I hadn’t realised that after ‘The Range Rider’ Dick Jones starred as ‘Buffalo Bill Jr’ which ran for forty or more episodes – another Gene Autry production

After leaving this series Jack Mahoney – quite a few years later – took on the role of ‘Tarzan’ in three big budget productions – one filmed in India – ‘Tarzan Goes to India’ and the last one was ‘Tarzan’s Thre Challenges’ filmed in Thailand during which Jack Mohoney contracted Dystentry and Dengue fever and had a monumental job to actually finish the film – but he did, and it then took him about a year to recover his health and the weight that he had lost.

Tarzan Jack Mahoney fights with Woody Strode

When looking up Jack Mahoney, he pays tribute to a veteran actor who helped him a lot – Tom London.

I had no knowledge of this actor but was he busy in his career

Tom London

He says of Tom London that he was ‘ The most underrated actor in town. The most patient, most professional actor I’ve ever known, as well as a kind, giving man. He’s one I feel lucky to be able to call a close friend.

Tom was a character actor and veteran of hundreds of Hollywood Westerns, Tom London seemed to be born in the saddle. As a trick rider he performed riding specialties in a number of films. His career started in the teens and through the 1920s he alternated between good guy and bad. 

He is credited with having made more films than any other actor.

Dick Jones retired from TV and Films in 1966 and went into business in propery. He was a family man with four children. He died in 2014

He was the voice of ‘Pinocchio’ for Walt Disney

Dick Jones was 10 years old and already a veteran actor in Hollywood when Walt Disney cast him as the voice of Pinocchio in 1939.

The young actor, whose screen name was “Dickie” Jones, had already appeared in nearly 40 films including Stella Dallas with Barbara Stanwyck, Wonder Bar with Al Jolson and Dick Powell, and Daniel Boone with George O’Brien and John Carradine.

Dick Jones – A Disnet Legend

He later recalled,

“At the time, Pinocchio was just a job. Who knew it would turn out to be the classic that it is today? I count my lucky stars that I had a part in it.”

Born February 25, 1927, in McKinney, Texas, Dick had been discovered by western film star Hoot Gibson by age three. Gibson was appearing in a rodeo in the youngster’s hometown. “Hoot told my mother I ought to be in pictures and sponsored our trip to Hollywood,” said Dick, who went on to work with practically every cowboy actor including Buck Jones, Ken Maynard, and Bill Elliott
Among his memories of Pinocchio, Dick recalled donning a puppet costume and acting out scenes for a live-action film study to which animators could refer. And when there was a lull in recording lines, remembered Dick, “Mr. Disney would take an old storyboard drawing, pin it up on a four-by-eight celotex sheet, and start a dart game with me using pushpins. He was good at throwing pushpins, underhand, and making them stick with fantastic accuracy. He always won the game.”

During the 19 months Dick worked on Pinocchio, he also managed to complete roles in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Destry Rides Again, both starring James Stewart, as well as other features

In 1944 he was drafted into World War II. By the time he finished training, the war was over. After his Christmas Day discharge in 1946, Dick appeared in a few more films; his favorite was Rocky Mountain, starring Errol Flynn. As he once pointed out, the film “marks the first time in motion picture history the United States Cavalry arrived too late—we all died.”

In 1949, he debuted in television when Gene Autry hired him as a stuntman for his Flying A Productions. During this time, Dick played Jock Mahoney’s sidekick in The Range Rider, a western series, which led to his own series, Buffalo Bill, Jr. He went on to guest star on other television shows, including GunsmokeAnnie Oakley, and The Lone Ranger. In all, Dick worked on nearly 100 films and more than 200 television episodes.

By 1959, he retired from show business and began a new career in real estate. In 1992, Dick founded his own agency, White Hat Realty.

He was installed as a Disney Legend

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Coming Shortly in the 50’s

To a Cinema Near You !!

This is a selection of what we had on offer – and I reckon many of us would remember most of them. When you look at these posters they were really cleverly produced in such a way as to convey the excitement, and even a sense of what we would see on the screen.

We just had to go and see it at the Cinema.

I remember seeing ‘The Indian Fighter’ on the big, wide screen and although it was good, it doesn’t particularly stand out in my memory like some films do.

I am surprised to see it is shown along with a Walt Disney short

Walt Disney with another winner ‘Pinocchio’ in Technicolor. Dont remember ‘Miss Robinson Crusoe’ though

ABOVE – We knew what we were in for with this one just by seeing the two stars Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. What a supporting cast too with Eddie Bracken, Gloria de Haven, Marjorie Main and Phil Silvers

ABOVE – Jane Powell and Farley Granger in ‘Small Town Girl’. When I think of Farley Granger, in my head I can’t think past ‘Strangers on a Train’ the Alfred Hitchcock film with Robert Walker. It was on Television very recently and I watched a lot of it. I didn’t much care for Farley Granger in this

Now the one ABOVE would definitely draw me in – just the sort of film I would go for.

‘The Unguarded Moment’ in Techicolor starred George Nader and Esther Williams – introduced to the screen John Saxon who went on to have a very long career.

‘Wyoming Renegades’ has a good title for a Western shown with ‘Operation Manhunt’ and even a Colour Cartoon ‘The Band Master’

What surprises me about the film showing ABOVE is the linking of these two films on the same bill. Still maybe it was thought that the audience would like a complete contrast.

ABOVE – We have pop singer Guy Mitchell in this film ‘Red Garters’

Now the Double Bill ABOVE would be a great attaction for filmgoers

This time – in 1958, we get a different coupling for these films – I think that ‘The Snorkel’ is a very good story and good, well acted film – an All-British fare

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